Apr 3, 2012

Astor estate finally settles

Socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor died at age 105 in 2007, leaving behind a $200 million estate, a Will executed in 2002, a raft of later codicils, and a pitched legal battle over who should get her fortune. On March 28, 2012, the Westchester County, NY Surrogate Court brought the saga to an end.

The Court threw out Astor's several post-2002 codicils. These were codicils that Astor signed while already mentally incompetent, at the behest of her son and agent under her Power of Attorney, Anthony Marshall, giving Marshall a bigger cut of her fortune. In 2009, at age 85, Marshall was convicted of  stealing from his elderly mother, abusing his authority as her Power of Attorney, and persuading his mother to make changes to her Will that greatly benefited him. Marshall, now 87, is still appealing the conviction.

The March 28 ruling leaves most of the estate to the New York charities and institutions Astor loved and supported during her lifetime, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Carnegie Hall. The ruling leaves Marshall with $14.5 million, but with what he owes in legal fees and the cost of his still-pending criminal appeal, he walks away with "just" $3 million. I say "just" not because it isn't a lot of money - it surely is for most of us - but because it's a pittance compared to the $70 million he would have inherited if he had not tried to exploit his elderly mother for more. 

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